Train ride to Coney Island, 1987
September 4, 2017 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Lets take a ride back in time thirty years and catch the train to to Coney Island! Ankh necklaces! Big hair! Gnarly fashion and grungy train cars. On this, the last day of the summer high season in the United States lets get sentimentally throwback like we should at the end of summer. [SLYT: 7:18, a foreign and familiar America]
posted by Ogre Lawless (25 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
omg people showing physical snapshots to each other to pass the time on a trip
posted by girl Mark at 1:43 AM on September 4


Dude! Don't lie down on that subway bench with your shirt off!


Oh, god- I somehow became a dad without ever having kids.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:06 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


What's interesting to me is that I moved to NYC three years after this was filmed and the trains looked nothing like that.
posted by slkinsey at 5:11 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


The subways were declared graffiti-free on May 12, 1989.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:18 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this!

It was so nice to see old Union Square. Sometimes you can still see that reddish column color where the paint is flaking.

The thing I miss most is now you can't stand at the front and look out the window — the new cars have a full-width cab. (Except maybe some old J/Ms and Cs.) It must be nicer for the driver but it is a little loss.
posted by dame at 5:30 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


I remember taking the F train to Coney Island pretty much around the same time and it was graffiti-free. I believe most of the newer cars were clean and stayed clean because they had some coating that paint could be hosed off of.
posted by lagomorphius at 5:47 AM on September 4


I'd love to know where those people are today
posted by james33 at 6:07 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


That's still what New York looks like in my head even though it hasn't looked like that in a quarter century.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Don't let anyone romanticize the awful 70s and 80s in NYC -- especially in the peak graffiti years of 1980-83. The whole city was like a big, ugly, smelly, out-of-control train plunging into an abyss of crime, chaos, homelessness and despair. For me, the whole era was summed up by my daily commute through Grand Central Station, and how when you walked through the door off Madison Avenue, you were hit by the stench of hundreds of homeless people huddled around the walls of the main concourse and down the side hallways. Today, there are restaurants in that space. But in 1987, you wouldn't want to eat there.

Taking the train to Coney Island was great, because as you hit Brooklyn, you came soaring out the tunnel onto the highest platform in the system (Smith & 9th?) and burst into neighborhoods of ordinary people doing ordinary things. And the men's room at the Coney Island subway station didn't have urinals, but long troughs that seemed to go on forever.
posted by Modest House at 6:54 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


Seconding the above. I went to NYC in the mid-eighties,expecting it to be like Chicago (where I'd spent my teen years), only more of it, but it was shockingly trashed-out--Chicago has never seemed cleaner to me than when I came there directly from NYC. By the early nineties, it was like a different city.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:07 AM on September 4


Michael Musto! Filthy subways! Meeting in the first car! I squint I can still smell it: I had my first clams on the half-shell on the boardwalk around '88. Probably not a very smart move, but we washed them down with budweiser and told ourselves the alcohol would act as an antiseptic. From the top of the Wonder Wheel you could just see the twin towers. The light at dusk, especially around September, was always surprisingly delicate. God, New York, how I fucking loved you.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:22 AM on September 4 [15 favorites]


So, don't limit yourself to just that one video. It's one of many pieces filmed by Nelson Sullivan that have been posted on the 5ninthavenueproject youtube channel.

"...on July 4, 1989, video artist Nelson Sullivan suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving behind almost 1,200 hours of footage of the now iconic and heavily romanticized Downtown New York scene. Ranging from performances by renowned drag queens RuPaul, Lypsinka, Taboo!, and Lady Bunny at the Pyramid Club to parties with notorious “Party Monster” Michael Alig, Sullivan’s videos record an insider’s view of the DIY self-constructed world of nightlife personalities set against the barely recognizable terrain of 1980s New York City."
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:54 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


> Don't let anyone romanticize the awful 70s and 80s in NYC -- especially in the peak graffiti years of 1980-83.

Eh, speak for yourself. I loved NYC back then, graffiti, trash, and all. I used to hang out in Tompkins Square Park when it was full of junkies and crack vials, and lived to tell the tale. And in 1987 the Mets were world champions, Tin Pan Alley was still open, and you could get the best Brazilian food in the city at Brasilia (7 W 45th St., just west of 5th Ave.—god, how I miss their bife palito). How I wish I could revisit that city any time I wanted!

> God, New York, how I fucking loved you.

Seconded, amigo. Seconded.
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on September 4 [10 favorites]


"Don't let anyone romanticize the awful 70s and 80s in NYC"

I grew up in NYC in the 80s. Back then, my grandmother was still alive, the neighborhood I grew up in hadn't yet become an overpriced hellhole, and the world seemed a creative and exciting place that was full of possibility.

Yeah, we have food courts now. Storefronts are occupied, the streets are safer, and things are cleaner. But life here has become unaffordable as hell, communities are being uprooted, and homelessness is soaring.

So I will romanticize the city of my childhood as I please.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:31 AM on September 4 [14 favorites]


Languagehat, have you read Samuel R. Delaney's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue?
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:41 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


No, but now I want to—thanks for the tip!
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on September 4


Taking the train to Coney Island was great, because as you hit Brooklyn, you came soaring out the tunnel onto the highest platform in the system (Smith & 9th?) and burst into neighborhoods of ordinary people doing ordinary things.

So if you will indulge my subway nerdery a moment. If anyone wants to recreate the soaring up to Smith–9th (which is totes worth it as is indeed the highest station in the system), you will have to take the F to Coney Island. The train shown here is an N/Q; you can tell because they depart from Union Square. It is a perfectly fine train and will take you over the Manhattan Bridge before crawling through the tunnels to Atlantic Ave for some unknown but probably traffic & signal related reasons.

Anyways, trains are great.
posted by dame at 9:31 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Speaking of subway nerdery: I thought it was an N train, but then it popped out of the tunnel and pulled into the 9th Ave. BMT station. I think it might acually be a yellow D train!

The decades-long Manhattan Bridge repair project began in 1986, and for a couple years, the D ran in two sections: an orange section that traveled north from midtown to the Bronx, and a yellow section that ran south via the N tracks and rejoined the D after 36th St.

This video is of a very particular time in NYC history in more ways than one.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:13 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Omg now you reminding me that when I first moved to the city (in 2000!), it was the phase of that project where there were no Broadway expresses in Manhattan and to walk from the R to the 6 or J/M at Canal, one had to walk down a dark deserted platform that was always wet and rat-infested. Good times.

The Q was orange then. And then once the project was finished and the Q went yellow, there was the short-lived V. Subways are like globes; there is always the tell that lets you zero in on the timing.
posted by dame at 10:37 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I love the idea that you can take a train to the beach for the day.
posted by octothorpe at 10:45 AM on September 4


Unprepared for near-fetal Michael Musto, even less prepared to recognize Ellis Henican right off the bat in the small still from the "up next" video. (I read his subway column in Newsday, maybe 25 years ago-ish, which carried his picture next to his byline, and I don't think I've seen him since.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:29 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


I went to NYC in the mid-eighties,expecting it to be like Chicago (where I'd spent my teen years), only more of it, but it was shockingly trashed-out--Chicago has never seemed cleaner to me than when I came there directly from NYC. By the early nineties, it was like a different city.

New York is still far dirtier and trash-filled than Chicago, even the bourgiest bits of Manhattan. It likely always will be as it lacks alleys and city-provided trash bins.
posted by enn at 1:29 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


The romanticization of NYC in the '80s (and '70s and '60s and '50s, going back to Peter Stuyvesant, depending on whom you ask) is a thing, but NYC was better back then. It was affordable; small, niche-market stores and restaurants could survive, and people could live in the City, which was always coterminous with "Manhattan," unless one was out of NYC proper.

I was a kid in NYC before this era, and, yes, it was unsafe in parts and post-apocalyptic in parts. But it was a proper city rather than a platform for big-box stores to have an urban foothold. Multigenerational family restaurants and stores and houses. Apartments that working-class people could afford. Keith Haring graffiti on the Lex Ave line.

And, let's face it, the music was fucking awesome.

I love looking at pictures and video of old NYC, so thanks for posting this. A lost world and, in a number of important ways for the City and for those loved it, more's the pity.
posted by the sobsister at 7:07 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


"Don't let anyone romanticize the awful 70s and 80s in NYC"

No, I'm going to let them. Because they should. What, are you one of the people who wanted to put diapers on the horses in Central Park?
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 10:00 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


...not that there's anything wrong with that!
posted by thelonius at 11:52 AM on September 5


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